Returning from a 4 ½-month layoff, Margoth's Gunnevera scored by 6 ½ lengths in Friday's featured fourth race at Gulfstream, showing he hasn't lost a step after recovering from a hoof injury.
The multiple grades-stakes winner hadn't seen action since exiting an eighth-place finish in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 31 with a nasty hoof injury. The Kentucky-bred 4-year-old was freshened in Ocala for two months to give the hoof time to heal before returning to trainer Antonio Sano's Gulfstream Park West stable.
“I'm so happy with my horse coming back after having the time off,” Sano said. “The rider, Edgard Zayas, said the horse is 100 percent.”
Gunnevera, who was sent to post at 1-9 odds in a five-horse field, trailed the field early before making an impressive wide run to take the lead leaving the turn into the homestretch. The 4-year-old son of Dialed In drew off to a dominating victory under Zayas in the 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance. Leitone, the Chilean Derby (G1) winner, finished second after stalking the early pace set by Asterisk and continuing on gamely through the stretch under Luca Panici. Millionaire Runner, who pressed the pace under Leonel Reyes, finish third, 2 ¾ lengths behind Leitone.
Gunnevera ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.03, closing impressively off mediocre fractions of 24.58 (seconds), 48.32 and 1:11.66 for the first six furlongs.
“Just at the 3/8th pole I kind of tapped him on the back because he was kind of lazy. I just wanted to make sure he was there and I tapped him on the back a couple times, one or two times, and after that it was hand ride him,” Zayas said. “He was moving beautiful. “
Sano said Gunnevera will be pointed to the Sept. 1 Woodward (G1) at Saratoga for his next start.
“The horse will work here for the next two weeks and then, maybe August 24th or 25th, he will go to Saratoga,” Sano said.
A year ago, Gunnevera made a return from a layoff to capture the 1 1/16-mile Tangelo Stakes at Gulfstream in preparation for a start in the Travers (G1), in which he finished second behind West Coast and ahead of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, Preakness (G1) victor Cloud Computing and Belmont Stakes (G1) champion Tapwrit. He also demonstrated a distinct fondness for the Saratoga racing surface while winning the 2016 Sanford (G2).
“He likes Saratoga's track,” Sano said. “Two races – a first and a second.”
The late-running colt also won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) to cap his juvenile season before going on to win the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream in 2017.
Gunnevera, who capped his 3-year-old season with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, finished third in the Jan. 27 $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream before venturing to Dubai.
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